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Federal Court Rules Against Army Corps in Dredging Case

A ship travels the Cuyahoga River [Elizabeth Miller/ideastream]

A federal court judge has ruled against the Army Corps of Engineers in a 2015 case over the cost of disposing dredged material from the Cuyahoga River.  This ruling is the latest development in a years-long debate between the agency and the state of Ohio.  

In his 52-page opinion, Judge Donald Nugent said the Army Corps “unreasonably delayed” the dredging of the Cuyahoga River when it refused to dredge the channel back in 2015. 

The Army Corps says dredged material is suitable for open lake disposal – but the Ohio EPA disagrees and says the sediment contains toxic chemicals that could harm Lake Erie.

Nugent has ordered the Army Corps to dredge twice, in 2015 and 2016, while the lawsuit continued.  Just last month, the Army Corps resumed its dredging operation from 2016 after poor weather prevented contractors from completing the job.

Judge Nugent ordered the Army Corps to dredge the Cuyahoga and pay the full cost to place the sediment in a confined disposal facility.  He called the Army Corps’ opinion that sediment could be deposited into open water without violating the Clean Water Act an “abuse of discretion”.

In a statement, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine calls the ruling a “great outcome” for the state.  In a statement, the Army Corps says it does not comment on active litigation.  “The Buffalo District is currently dredging the federal channel in the Cuyahoga River and Cleveland Harbor, and will continue to maintain the channel within our authorized and appropriated means for the benefit of all stakeholders,” reads the statement.